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San Diego County's COVID hospitalizations increase to 943

People waiting in line at City Heights Recreation Center to get tested for COVID-19, Dec. 23, 2021.
Kitty Alvarado / KPBS
People waiting in line at City Heights Recreation Center to get tested for COVID-19, Dec. 23, 2021.

The number of COVID-positive patients in San Diego County hospitals has increased to 943 from 889 on Saturday, according to the latest state figures.

Of those patients, 169 were in intensive care, up nine from the previous day. The number of available ICU beds decreased by one to 169.

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Because of a massive influx in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, San Diego County public health officials are urging residents to not only get all vaccinations and the booster shot, but to only seek testing for the illness if necessary.

According to county data, in the past month, confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped from around 4,700 per week to more than 45,000 cases reported in the seven days between Dec. 29, 2021, through Jan. 4, 2022. That is nearly a tenfold increase in just 30 days.

RELATED: More than 500 SDPD employees have filed requests to be exempt from COVID vaccinations

COVID-19 hospitalizations have also more than doubled in the past 30 days, from 303 to 837, putting a strain on local hospitals that are contending with hundreds of employees unable to work after contracting the virus.

Some COVID-positive patients may have been hospitalized for other reasons and had their COVID status discovered by hospital-mandated tests.


"We're now seeing the highest local case counts of the pandemic. COVID-19 is everywhere," Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer, said last week. "The best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 is to have as much immunity as possible and to take other precautions that we know work."

The county Health and Human Services Agency reported 5,922 new infections and five deaths on Friday, increasing the cumulative totals to 477,211 cases and 4,500 deaths.

A total of 23,043 tests were reported Friday, and the seven-day average positivity rate was 25.8%, up from 25.4% on Thursday.

The agency does not report updated coronavirus statistics on weekends.

Meanwhile, dozens of city workers began receiving advanced termination notices on Thursday for failure to comply with the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees. City officials reported 86 employees were sent the notifications, far fewer than the more than 900 sent letters providing some options in December.

A city spokesman reported this week that 85% of its approximately 11,300 employees were fully vaccinated, 9,695 in total with 1,095 requesting a religious or medical exemption.

City employees had until Monday to get the vaccine or select from a list of other options such as requesting a religious or medical exemption, taking leave without pay, resigning or retiring.

Those who chose none of the above options were sent termination notices and could face a hearing with "all due process rights and rights to representation."

However, those employees who become fully vaccinated before they receive the final termination notice will not be fired, city officials said.

UC San Diego announced Thursday that its remote instruction period would be expanded through January due to the surge in new COVID cases. UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said the spread of the Omicron variant has led to staffing shortages and impacts to student attendance, prompting the university to delay the return to in-person instruction until Jan. 31.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday unveiled a proposed $2.7 billion COVID- 19 emergency response package as part of his next budget proposal, including a $1.4 billion emergency appropriation request to bolster testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers, strengthen the health care system and "battle misinformation."

On Friday, Newsom announced the activation the California National Guard to help provide additional testing facilities and capacity amid the national surge in cases driven by the Omicron variant.